Restarting an old car


I have a 1987 Honda Accord with 305,000 miles which has not been started in over a year. What procedures should I follow in my attempt to restart this car?


First off, have a good strong battery and likely a charger with a jump starter on it.

If it were me, the first thing I would do is pull the plugs and give a couple good squirts to each cylinder of WD 40, then crank it over with the plugs out to expel the WD40. Re-install the plugs and try cranking it to see if it starts.

Once I got it started I’d let it idle a few minutes then go directly to get fresh gas and fill it up with Premium to hopefully dilute the stale gas out of it with fresh gas.

Next would be an oil change.



Be sure to check the brakes and steering before you drive it on the road. The most cautious way to approach starting the motor would be to “pickle” the engine by overfilling with inexpensive motor oil for a few days to a few weeks. (Depending on your schedule and how much of a hurry you are in.) Then drain the oil to to proper level. Meantime, take off the spark plugs and put a table spoon of oil in each cylinder. Turn the engine over by hand and replace the plugs.

If there is a lot of gas in the car, I would drain it and add fresh. If there is only a gallon or two, add a lot more, but be prepared to pump it out if the car has gone bad. Purge the fuel lines by running the fuel pump and disconnect a fuel line as close to the carb or injectors as possible. Is this carb’ed (DX, LX) or injected (LXi)?


I believe the '87 was carburated so I’ll answer under that assumption.

First I’d suggest removing the sparkplugs, squirting a bit of oil in each cylinder, and (with the plugs still out) turn the engine over by hand to get some lubrication in the cylinders.

Next, you’ll need a new battery. I’d suggest new plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor, and filters too.

You’ll need to prime the intake by spraying some gas in it also, as the float bowl is probably empty, but before you do I’d suggest spraying all the linkage down with a carb cleaner and operating it all by hand until it’s loosened up and working. At 305,000 miles it was probably due a good cleaning anyway.

Now you can fire it up…and now comes the REALLY important part. The brakes. Remember that if your car won’t start it’ll ruin your day, but if it won’t stop it could ruin the rest of your life!

Get the car up off the ground securely and thoroughly inspect and test the braking system. Include checking everything over with a work light looking for signs of leaks. You have 21 year old rubber seals enabling your brakes to work and they’ve now been sitting drying for the past year. Also, with the car in the air, turn each wheel by hand and have a friend slowly apply the brakes. Make sure they stop smoothly and, again checking carefully for signs of leaks.

Now, check all the functional systems out like the windshield wipers. You do not want to get caught in the rain and find out the wipers don’t work.

If everything is working, you may want to drain, flush with fresh hosewater, and refill the cooling system, inspecting for leaks.

And change the oil and filter.


I believe the '87 was carburated so I’ll answer under that assumption.

Depends on the model…the LXi was fuel injected.


Now is a great time to change the oil . . . drain out all of the old oil, change the filter and replace the oil pan plug. Fill it up with 4 quarts of good quality new oil. I’d take a bottle of Marvel Mystery Oil and pour it into each of the spark plug hole (one at a time, take your time here) and the rest down the throat of the carb . . . you’ll only need an ounce or two in each cylinder hole. Pull the coil wire OFF and crank it over a few times (briefly at first then a full turn or two . . . to get oil circulated to the whole engine). The gas is probably bad . . . you should drain most of it (siphon it like you’re stealing gas) and replace with about 5 gallons of fresh gas. You’ll need a new battery, so once that’s installed, button everything up, check for spills (gas, oil whatever) and get ready to start it. You should’ve lightly cleaned the spark plug tips and re-gapped the plugs. Get a fire extinguisher ready and pump the crap out of the pedal as you are cranking the starter. It’ll start . . . don’t rev it . . . get it to temp and post back. Lots of safety issues with an Accord of this era and if you get it started I can help you to check the more important stuff. I have an '89 Accord with just over 455,000 miles on it. Good Luck! Rocketman


fill it up with Premium to hopefully dilute the stale gas

Premium will do no more good than regular. High octane will not help at all. If the car’s engine calls for high test, then it would be good to use it, but it will not help it start or run. The only thing that high test gas does is to burn a little slower to prevent engine knock. It has no more power or energy. It was commonly needed in high power engines, but not because it had more power, but because what they did to get more power out of the engine required high test.